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Interviewing children or vulnerable adults

One of the most important aspects of investigation is interviewing of suspects and witnesses. In most cases interview is conducted by the investigating police officers, but often interaction with criminal psychologist is essential.

Sometimes it is very sensitive process to interview a witness, especially (1) those who have been victims of serious crimes – such as sexual abuse and (2) those who especially need help to remember everything accurately, for example children and vulnerable adults. In order to make sure the witness is totally secured in some countries this process is regulated by law and police is obliged to tape the whole interview if the witness is a child (Englad and Wales have pioneered this initiative).

Let’s overview the most modern and commonly used methods for interviewing these kinds of witnesses. First of all, in order to assist such witness to say as much as possible about what may have happened, the interviewer must take time  to create a positive relationship between themselves and the witness. But it must be done in a way that can’t be considered as serving to bias or influence what a witness might say. Several psychological researches demonstrated that when it is about complex and stressful events, the witness will recall everything better when they are in a positive frame of mind and have a positive regard for the interviewer.

Another important thing about conducting the interview effectively is using the “free recall” method. This means just letting them talk. As some scientists state while remembering events, what one says in their own words is always more accurate than what they say in response to questions.

Hence, letting a witness provide free recall before asking them questions (open or closed questions) can improve the accuracy and the reliability of the information.

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